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Lou Collichio came to Metro Wines with twenty eight years of experience in the spirits industry. He started his career in New Jersey first managing a small wine shop and then working for a chain of discount beer, wine, and liquor stores as a beer buyer and assistant store manager. After moving to Asheville in 2006, Lou worked for both Greenlife Grocery, and Whole Foods as a beer and wine buyer. His passion for all things craft beer started at the dawn of the American craft beer movement and has continued unabated to this day.

Lou says he is a "recovering musician." We haven't heard his music yet but what we do know is that Lou has stories! He plans to share some of his greatest hits with us and you on "Brewing UP a Storm" our beer blog. did you know that Lou was in a 7th grade play with James Gandolfini and lou stole the show? Stay tuned!


Anita Riley is the cellarman at Mystery Brewing in Hillsborough, NC and continues to blog for "Brewing Up a Storm." She holds the title of Certified Beer Server through Cicerone, USA, and is a native of WNC.

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Friday Beer Tasting - Beer Floats!

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Chocolate, orange, and ice cream. Mmmmmm...the perfect guilty pleasure. 

If you haven't already ventured to the dark side of ice cream floats, let us help you. This Friday, May 20th, between 5-7pm we will be serving up the heavenly Choklat Oranj stout brewed by Southern Tier out of Lakewood, NY paired with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

According to the brewery, Choklat Oranj is the fifth beer currently in their highly regarded Blackwater series. Choklat Oranj is a stout brewed with chocolate and orange peels, opaque black in color, 10% abv, and makes a delicious dessert beer. It's perfect alone or enjoyed as a float. 

Who are we to decline a suggestion to add ice cream to beer?

 

 

 

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Friday Beer Tasting - Pilsner vs Lager

Tonight at Metro Wines, 5-7pm, our Friday Beer Tasting is back! 

 

Pilsners are Lagers, but Lagers are not always Pilsners. 

Confused yet?

Beer is typically separated into two categories, ales and lagers. Lagers are made with a bottom-fermenting lager yeast reaching maturation in cold temperatures and ales are made with a top-fermenting ale yeast in slightly warmer temperatures. There are many different styles of both ales and lagers. 

Tonight we are going to explore two new arrivals to the store that fall under the lager category: Nantahala Little Tennessee Logger and the brand spanking new Highland Pilsner in a CAN

 

NANTAHALA LITTLE TENNESSEE LOGGER

 

Nantahla Brewing Company describes their Little Tennesse Logger as a hoppy lager (or Happy Lumberjack) brewed to quench the thirst of hardworking , hop-forward outdoor types. It was a hoppy mistake one brew day that turned out to be a very popular off-season favorite. Hopped with French Aramis, a very floral, rosey flavored variety that transformed this beer from light lager to hopped up goodness. Yet, it maintains its crisp, refreshing soul. Which makes this one the perfect brew to wrap up an action-packed day of outdoor pursuits.

 

 

HIGHLAND PILSNER

 

Highland describes this brew as a finely nuanced pilsner featuring German Hallertau Blanc hops and three other Hallertau region varietals (Saphir, Perle, and Hersbrucker hops) adding notes of stone fruit, pepper, and lush grass to the German pilsner malt body. Cold fermented with lager yeast for a crisp finish.

 

 

 

 

 

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A Magical Mystery Tour of the Triangle

I recently moved to the Triangle area to accept a cellar position with Mystery Brewing Company. What does a newly relocated Cellarman and Beer Writer do when finding themselves in unfamiliar territory? Well, we go on a beer tour, of course! I gathered the gals from the Mystery team, hopped in my pickup truck, and took off to sample the beers and meet (did you have any doubt?) the women behind them! Brittany Judy, Office Manager, and Jessica Arvidson-Williams, NC Sales Rep were more than happy to go day drinking with me on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon!




Disclaimer: There wasn't time in a day to get around to all of the breweries in the Triangle that have women in leadership and/or production roles. I have my work cut out for me down here! It certainly isn't close to all the breweries the Triangle has to offer.


Stop #1
Bombshell Beer Company, Holly Springs, NC
This is a 100% woman-owned brewery in Holly Springs, NC just south of Raleigh. I caught up with owners Ellen Joyner, Jackie Hudspeth and Michelle Miniutti on the heels of their second anniversary party, and just as the brewery was preparing to begin canning their beers for distribution. They got their start as homebrewers while they each worked in the corporate world. These women bring their experience in marketing, sales, and product management into their jobs as brewery owners. Each of them are deeply concerned with the quality of their beers, and want every interaction with their brand to be the best it can be. Michelle recounted the decision to stop making their most popular beer, a pilsner, because of quality concerns. "It came down to opportunity costs," she said. Because this lager style takes longer to ferment than ale styles, they weren't making as much of their other styles as they could. Bombshell spent some time taste testing a cream ale with their regular customers, and found that the similar flavor profile was well received in their market. The Star Light Ale was born! Even though they were all nervous about making the switch, the brewery is better off for being brave and taking the chance. They admit that making tough decisions can be hard, but the end result is worth it.
"I love seeing people having a good time and enjoying our beers," Jackie said. "Even though decision making can be difficult at times, we know that it's because we have a great brand and everyone in the room wants what's best for the company."
"You want to come to work in the morning," Ellen added. "Plus, I don't have to wear suits and heels anymore, either! I had to put on heels for Christmas, and I almost fell off of them! It had been that long since I'd worn them!"
Michelle's favorite part of brewery ownership is being more hands on in the community. "We are able to host fundraisers in our space and give back to the community in a more personal way. In the corporate world, we did a lot of high level philanthropy, but we rarely got to meet the people we were helping."
Bombshell has just launched distribution of cans around the local market. "But," Michelle said, "Growth for the sake of growth isn't what we are after. We want to grow at a pace that allows us to continue to focus on quality, ensuring that we are putting the best possible packaged product into the market."
"We work hard," Jackie continued, "we want to have a good product to show for that hard work."


Stop #2
Raleigh Brewing Company, Raleigh, NC
I met up with Kristie Nystedt just after the weekly Sunday afternoon yoga class at the brewery. She and her husband, Patrick opened Raleigh Brewing Company in March of 2013 on the heels of opening two other businesses that they still operate. They Nystedts opened Atlantic Brew Supply (ABS) Commercial, which wholesales commercial brew systems and tanks to breweries in September of 2012, followed quickly by Atlantic Brew Supply homebrew shop in December of the same year. They have now grown to be the largest homebrew supplier on the eastern seaboard!
Kristie says that she and Patrick had always talked about opening a nanobrewery in their retirement. But when her company announced a double merger at the same time that Patrick's company declared bankruptcy, they decided that their dreams didn't need to wait any longer. They have two daughters that were about to enter college at the time, and suddenly what seemed risky from the comfort of secure jobs seemed like the least risky thing they could do. "No one had time to dip toes into the water. We went in with both feet. We knew that the excitement around craft beer was growing, and the time was right."
I was enjoying their most popular beer, the "Hell Yes Ma'am" a Belgian Golden Ale. "This is the beer that I helped create," Kristie tells me. It's the only style she insisted that they carry from the beginning. So, when the guys presented the initial line up of beers that they proposed as their core brands, Kristie immediately said, "Where's the Belgian Golden?" The only proper response was, "Hell yes Ma'am." The guys challenged Kristie to come up with the recipe, which she did. She designed the malt bill, the hop character, and chose the yeast that make up this unique, high gravity beer.
I asked Kristie if she had experienced any advantages or disadvantages by being a woman in a male dominated industry. "If I have, I haven't noticed," she said. "I don't play that card. I have too much on my plate to get wrapped up in that sort of thing. If I run into any push back, I just tell them that they might want to try the beers now. People are usually a lot nicer after a beer. I'm more interested in being a part of the community. I want to help Raleigh grow to be the city that it wants to be. I just want to add a small grain to that," Kristie says of her involvement with several economic development boards and merchant associations.


Stop #3
Fullsteam Brewery, Durham, NC
Amanda Richardson is a brewer from from New Hampshire, though she first discovered her love of beer while traveling in the Czech Republic. She started her career in the beer industry at Brooklyn Brew Shop, orchestrating assembly of gallon kits and brewing on a small scale for events. When she relocated to Durham a couple years ago, Fullsteam's Plow to Pint model spoke to her. Fullsteam is dedicated to locally sourced ingredients, and endeavors to support local agriculture in post tobacco North Carolina. Amanda had already been brewing with local ingredients she found at the farmer's market, and Fullsteam offered the challenge of scale. "It's harder than people think. We have to get a large amount of quality ingredients to brew a la batch. It has to be feasible on our system, and then what if it's a bad crop that year? There are challenges all the way through." The flip side of the challenge is the reward of getting to interact with the people in the community when they bring ingredients to sell to the brewery.
Amanda points out another perk of working in the brewing industry: the people that it attracts. "We come from so many backgrounds, it makes work more dynamic," said the brewer who studied neuroscience in college! She admits that the combination of science and creativity that goes into beer production was a main draw for her entering the field. "It's like I'm providing therapy for the yeasts! We make sure that their needs are met, so that they can do the work that they do. We are like yeast social workers!"
Mary Beth Brandt, Fullsteam's General Manager joined the conversation. She started out volunteering "doing stuff" with Fullsteam before they got the brewery up and running. Sean, the owner, asked Mary Beth for her resume, and a few months later she was hired on, and over time she worked her way to the position of GM. She still defines her job description as, "doing stuff; whatever needs to be done." She encourages anyone seeking a position in the brewing industry to keep searching until the right opportunity comes along. "If you're really interested in beer, don't be afraid to get out there and find a company that will give you an opportunity. You may have to start in one position before you transition into the role that you really want."
"There's a lot of education out there," Amanda adds, "but there are still an apprentice route that could be beneficial to some people."

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Friday Beer Tasting - Feeling Funky!

Tonight at Metro Wines, 5-7pm, beer and wine tango side-by-side with Wicked Weed Marina Peach and Apricot Blonde Sour and Ca' di Rajo Le Moss Frizzante.

Although seemingly very different, these two share some very interesting commonalities. In fact, sour ales are often referred to as the bridge between beer and wine. Pairing these two side by side, it's easy to understand why.

 

WICKED WEED MARINA

American Wild Ale, Peach and Apricot Blonde Sour

"Marina is a blonde sour ale aged in wine barrels with over one pound per gallon of peaches and apricots. The result is a lovely, hazy-gold ale with deep stone fruit character."

American wild ales utilize unique yeast strains or bacteria, sometimes in addition to or in lieu of the traditional brewers' yeast saccharomyces cerevisiae. People usually develop a love-hate relationship with these sour ales. The funky flavors produced in fermentation give them a unique of character that some liken to ...well, I'll let you use your own descriptors. Personally, I'm a big fan. 

Marina's mild flavors of apricot and peach tame the wild in this sour ale. The barrel aging process gives it a depth that lingers on your palate and allows you to savor the funk. 

If only Metro Wines had a disco ball.

 

CA' DI RAJO LE MOSS FRIZZANTE

Wild Fermented, Col Fondo Prosecco

 

Le Moss is not your typical prosecco. This wine is unfiltered and made in the traditional methods of Col Fondo. Fermented with indigenous yeasts in bloom directly in the bottle, it has a slight sour taste similar to a tart apple balanced with a full mouthfeel the winery describes as "pleasant and harmonious on the palate."
When one Metro Wine's customer tasted Le Moss and shared that it reminded her of a gose. That got our wheels turning. Why not lead adventurers across the bridge to the world of sour beers via Le Moss! 

 

If you like a little funk in your flavor, both of these are worth a taste. 

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The Legend of the Boojum

The Legend of the Boojum
There are mythical creatures that live in the high hills surrounding Waynesville, NC. You may not see them, as they rarely leave their cozy den, but their presence is felt across WNC by many a beer lover. I am speaking, of course, about the brother and sister team behind Boojum Brewing Company.  Kelsie and Ben Baker discovered their mutual love for brewing while they were on opposite ends of the Eastern Seaboard. Ben was working in a nuclear power plant in Florida.  His sister Kelsie was an environmental engineer in Boston. Neither of them knew about each other’s love for brewing until a family gathering, when they each disclosed that they wanted to leave their professions and start a brewery. It only made sense to them to start one brewery together. I had heard about people like this – people that actually enjoy the company of their family members for eight hours a day, every day – but I had never met any in real life. Most of our interview went like this: Kelsie and Ben laughing and getting a long while I cocked my head to the side with a look of bewilderment on my face. 
I was even more surprised to find out that their parents and aunt and uncle are also involved. On the one hand, it makes perfect sense that the two need reinforcements to pull off such an undertaking.  On the other hand, the three ring side show that I have come to know as family dynamics make this all the more unbelievable. But given that they are celebrating their first year in business by adding a line of canned beers that are being distributed across WNC, ramping up production to keep up with demand, and trying to figure out how to expand their taproom and restaurant to accommodate the influx of visitors, I decided to suspend my disbelief and just go with it. 
“You know your family, so you know what to expect. You know what each other’s strengths and weaknesses are, and how to work together as a team for the best result,” Kelsie says. “It can be hard to separate work from family life, so sometimes we find ourselves at a family picnic talking about work when we should be relaxing,” she counters. 
“I think it’s awesome. I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Ben insists. “There will be fights, but you’re family, so you get over it. You can’t just get rid of your family members, so you have to find a way to make it work.” And they have. 
Kelsie, 27, handles the day to day operations of the brewery. She schedules the brewing, orders ingredients, helps brew and package the beer, and some of the cellar work so that Ben, 28, can focus on the brewing and making the beers the best they can be. “There are so many good breweries out there, that we have to focus on quality,” Kelsie says. Already this brewery has garnered a lot of respect from the local brewing community. 
Kendra Penland, Director of the Asheville Brewer’s Alliance had this to say, "Boojum Brewing is a great example of how our Asheville Brewers Alliance members and their products can be so distinct, but do such a solid job of knowing who they are as a brand and focusing on the customer experience, that success naturally follows. I think that's why so many breweries not only coexist in our region, but see the value in collaborating with and supporting each other - everyone wants to make great beer their way, and they want to see others do the same thing. It elevates everyone in the industry, so everyone wins."
“We are excited to grow, and we want to take our business as far as we can,” Kelsie says regarding their future plans. “We are looking forward to seeing our cans in bottle shops and grocery stores, but we also want to grow sustainably.  We are focused primarily on Western North Carolina right now, from Asheville west.  We plan to grow as fast as we comfortably can without sacrificing quality.” Having said that, there’s a lot of change coming for the brother-sister team in 2016. Boojum’s King of the Mountain Double IPA just hit the shelves in cans in December of 2015, and Graveyard Fields, their highly coveted Blueberry Coffee Porter and Reward American Pale Ale arrived in February. Mûr, a Raspberry Saison will arrive later in the Spring. “It’s so hard to decide which beers to focus our distribution efforts on.  Ultimately, we went with the ones that people asked us for the most.”  Even as they continue to grow their staff, they are keeping with the theme of family and close, close friends.  They’ve hired their friend, Keller Fitzpatrick, who has literally been friends with the Bakers since they were babies. Keller is heading up the barrel aging and sour program at Boojum. Cody Noble, who attended the same high school. is also a recent graduate of the brewing program at Blue Ridge Community College in Brevard.  He has already come up with some great beers like our Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout & Jalapeño Wheat IPA. Elisa Tathum, a longtime friend from Kelsie’s days in Boston, also worked as a distiller for Blue Ridge Distilling, which makes Defiant Whisky, before coming on board at Boojum. 
Boojum is currently working on developing new recipes and experimenting with new techniques. “We come together and decide as a team how we want the beer to taste, then Ben makes it taste like that!” They are also isolating yeast strains from the local flora and using that to ferment beers. Part of the fun for Kelsie and Ben is keeping the lineup exciting with special releases and new flavors.  At the time of our interview, they were most excited about their Galaxy Far, Far Away IPA that they made for the release of The Force Awakens.  They used Millennium, Falconers Flight, and Galaxy hops to create this English Style IPA. You could tell that they were both huge fans of the films by how excited they both were about this beer.  I could start to see why they worked together so well by focusing on what they agree on and staying true to themselves. I could tell that they were both on the same page when I asked them what their loftiest goal for the brewery is.  “To make the ultimate IPA,” Kelsie said. 
“The best IPA EVER!” Ben echoed!
 
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